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North Slope Ochoco Holistic Restoration Project


Year Awarded: FY 15
USDA Funding: $4.2 million
Partner-Contributed Funding: $7 million
RCPP Funding Pool: Critical Conservation Area, Columbia River Basin
Project Timeline: 5 years (2015 – 2019)
Counties: Wheeler
Lead Partner: Wheeler Soil and Water Conservation District


Collaborating Partners:

  • Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Project Summary:


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The North Slope Ochoco Holistic Restoration Project is a comprehensive conservation project that will improve water quantity and quality, restore fish and wildlife habitat, improve forest and rangeland health, and sustain agricultural productivity in Wheeler County. Experts will use innovative Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to address priority natural resource concerns in a ridge-top to ridge-top manner. The project relies on the longstanding, collaborative program by the Wheeler SWCD that focuses on improving and protecting natural resources to benefit agricultural producers, fish and wildlife, and the local community.

The project will use a variety of NRCS financial assistance programs to help landowners implement conservation practices on private lands, through cost-sharing and easements. The project also uses the Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to restore and protect stream habitat.

The project targets three watersheds in the Lower John Day Basin: Mountain Creek, Bridge Creek, and Cherry Creek. These watersheds comprise 345,298 acres, and 66 percent of that land is privately-owned. The project area is comprised of 30 percent dense forested stands, 65 percent rangeland, and 5 percent irrigated cropland and riparian corridors.

Conservation work includes: pre-commercial timber thinning, irrigation efficiency projects, conservation easements, juniper removal, range restoration, water spring developments, riparian restoration, and critical habitat restoration.

NRCS will invest $4.2 million in federal funding over the next five years to support the project. Most of that funding will be used to reimburse private landowners for a portion of the construction costs they incur on private lands. According to NRCS economic modeling, that investment will create an estimated $3.9 million in additional regional economic activity in Wheeler County. Regional economic activity captures all types of spending that people will do as a result of NRCS’ investments in that regional economy. That can include expenditures such as purchasing supplies, equipment and labor, as well as subsequent spending by the community, such as trips to the grocery store and restaurants.

The project will include nearly three dozen producers in the defined region, which will account for over 75 percent of all eligible land. These producer and landowner participants are all excellent stewards of the land. Several of the producers are relatively new to the area (less than 20 years), while many others are lifelong residents on multi-generational working ranches with history in the area approaching 150 years. Wheeler SWCD staff have working relationships with all potential participants in this program. Numerous projects have been completed by Wheeler SWCD on many of the landowners including many in-stream projects (passage, fish habitat improvements), riparian enhancement projects, juniper removal projects, weed control, and irrigation efficiency projects. The landowners have been overwhelmingly pleased with the outcomes of these projects because they offer immediate benefits toward production efficiency. Additionally, many landowners have expressed great satisfaction in knowing that the improvements that are being done serve to benefit the terrestrial and aquatic habitats and species.

NRCS Financial Assistance Programs Used:

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP/ALE)

NRCS Conservation Practices:

  • Brush Management
  • Fence
  • Irrigation Pipeline
  • Irrigation Water Management
  • Livestock Pipeline
  • Pumping Plant (Solar)
  • Range Planting
  • Spring Development
  • Trough / Cisterns
  • Forest Stand Improvement
  • Long-term Easements
  • Short-term Easements (CREP)
  • Stream Restoration
  • Conservation Stewardship Program

More Information:

North Slope Ochoco Holistic Restoration Project Economics Fact Sheet (PDF, 792 KB)

Points of Contact:

Gabe Williams, Project Manager
Wheeler Soil and Water Conservation District
Phone: 541-771-6911

Damon Brosnan, District Conservationist, Wheeler County
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Phone: 541-384-2281 ext. 107